Today, June 23, is the International Widows’ Day; a day set aside two years ago by the United Nations General Assembly. The declaration calls on member-states and other international organisations to end all negative practices associated with widowhood.
Speaking with newsmen, President of Enugu-based Widows Development Organisation (WiDO), Dr. Eleanor Nwadinobi said she founded the organisation as a result of incidents she witnessed in the early 1990s. “I had visited two bereaved people, a man and a woman.
I was uncomfortable with the fact that the widow was treated differently in comparison to the widower and I was curious to know the reason behind it,” she said.
According to the physician/gender and human rights consultant, she started by carrying out a research on widowhood practices in four South Eastern states of Abia, Anambra, Enugu and Imo in 1995 and found out that generally, a woman is blamed for her husband’s death and certain punitive mourning rites and practices are performed supposedly to dissuade women from killing their husbands.
Some of the harmful practices widows go through in Nigeria, according to her, include having their heads shaven, “usually with a rigid sharp object such as a broken bottle; being forced to sleep with their dead husbands’ corpses; being forced to cry loudly for the entire village to hear; and drinking the water that was used to clean their husbands’ dead bodies.”